Seasonal treats from Adam SimmondsBy Hilary Scott
December 01, 2010
Adam Simmonds of Danesfield House has been tipped as the new Jamie.
Hilary Scott talks to Adam and tries his food – and he also shares some delicious easy-to-do Christmas dishes with us too
Now Jamie Oliver is all grown up (and Gordon looks to be washed up), one man has been tipped as the next home-grown sensation.
And Adam Simmonds is a geezer, there’s no doubt about that.
Squat and small with forearms that suggest he manages to get out of the kitchen and into the gym, he sounds like a market stall holder and has a smile as wide as the Thames.
He’s 39 so no spring chicken but looks at least 10 years younger.
In fact, and I hope he won’t take offence at this, he reminds me of Popeye.
But boy oh boy when he cooks there’s no posh chef comes close to him.
Interestingly he does cook at somewhere you’d expect an upper-class, well-to-do chef to be at home in – Danesfield House in Marlow.
The 18th century elegant house set in 65 acres of gardens with views over the Thames and the Chilterns, it’s where the past meets the present. The house is now a hotel and conference centre and has been skillfully renovated to keep its character but still offering a modern and chic service.
At Simmonds’s resturant – Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House – he is showing off the skills he honed at Le Manoir, Halkin and the Yntshir Hall in Wales. There he gained a number of accolades including a Michelin star, an 8/10 rating in the Good Food Guide 2007 and four AA rosettes.
Raymond Blanc holds a particular place in Simmonds’s affections for the superb training he got under him.
That should, he hopes, put him in line for a star at Danesfield and that is what he’s aiming for. He and his team of six were “bitterly disappointed” not to get it last year – but they did get the number 13 spot in the UK Good Food Guide and Simmonds in their chefs to watch list.
Says Simmonds: “Yes, we are pushing hard again for that this year. It was a bitter disappointment for us not to get it last year. Not that you ever expect these things but the boys had worked fantastically hard in order to achieve that.”
His menu (both tasting which is £75 for seven courses) and the a la carte (£55 for three course, now that’s a bargain) looks simple – mains are named just scallop, venison, brill, partridge and seabass for example but there is a description below.
Desserts sound simple too – pear, orange, chocolate etc.
“I’ll have the foie gras, then lobster followed by pear” sounds easy – but these are intricate dishes.
My foie gras was in fact a confit slab with black fig puree, a fig compote, hazelnut crunch and Pedro Ximenez jelly – the chunk of foie gras was very generous and the fig accompaniments sticky and sweet.
I did eye my companion’s “chicken” starter – a boudin of corn-fed chicken, Cornish crab salad, an unctuous yet fresh sweetcorn puree. Did it need malt jelly? Not sure.
For mains Judith had venison – a loin with parsnip puree, sprout leaves and caraway croquettes. A superb autum dish – but the sprout leaves were frankly a bit too fine dining (“it’s so lovely I want a big fat sprout with it!” she hissed).
I had the lobster – a roasted, sweet tail with crispy veal sweetbreads (and plenty of them) celeriac, dried almonds and autumn truffle. The broth my superb tail swam in was clear and truffly. This dish attracts a £10 surcharge but it’s unique taste makes it well worth it.
The cheese course is lifted by not just a fab selection but Adam’s twist on black grapes and celery – he does them as cold sorbets. The black grape was heavenly, the celery too grass-like for me – but the home-made biscuits are to die for, oaty, sweet and buttery.
We had Pear and Orange for desserts and Adam gives you the fruits done in three or four ways. Pear was mousse, sorbet and roasted – orange was parfait, meringue and ice cream.
It is British food with a big French twist but it’s no cliche. There are suprises hiding in each and every plateful.
Imagine Popeye and Raymond Blanc whipping up your dinner and going light on the spinach.
Now surely that deserves one star at least?
The seven-course Tasting Menu at Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House Hotel costs £75 per person.
Three courses £55 per person. Danesfield House Hotel, Marlow, Buckinghamshire Tel: 01628 891010, www.danesfieldhouse.co.uk
Celeriac Soup with Roasted Scallops and Truffle Oil
175g white onion, diced into ½cm pieces
550g celeriac, diced in ½ c pieces
Lemon juice, for seasoning
In a suitable sized pan, sweat the onion in the butter until it goes translucent – be careful not to add any colour.
Add the celeriac and continue to sweat until the celeriac begins to collapse, again being careful not to add any colour (you cook the celeriac until it begins to collapse to reduce the cooking time once the water and milk is added, this will help retain a clean, fresh flavour).
Place the milk and water into a pan and bring to the boil. Add to the celeriac.
Bring back to the boil and cook for a further 5 minutes, at this stage the celeriac should be completely soft. Add the salt and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine chinois or sieve. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Remove the scallop roe and pat each scallop dry with kitchen towel.
Cut each scallop in half (you want 16 circles of scallop flesh almost identical in depth).
Place a pan on the stove and allow to warm.
When the pan reaches the correct temperature add a little oil (it should be hot but not at the point where it begins to smoke as this will scorch the scallops).
Place the scallops in to the pan and cook on one side until golden brown.
Turn the scallop over and season with sea salt and a little lemon juice. Remove from the pan.
Place into a bowl, carefully pour the soup around and finish with a drizzle of truffle oil.
Chocolate Tart, Mandarin Sorbet, Cranberry Tuille
500g plain flour
200g icing sugar
80g egg yolks
Sieve flour and icing sugar together, rub the butter into the flour and sugar until a fine crumb is achieved. Add the yolks to the dough and mix thoroughly, be careful not to overwork the dough. Allow to rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
180g whipping cream
180g dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
Boil the cream. Melt the chocolate in the cream. Mix the milk and eggs together and add to the chocolate mix.
Assembling the tart
When the pastry is rested roll out in to a circle approximately 10 inches in diameter
Place the pastry over an 8 inch tart ring and line in the normal way. Bake blind for approximately 15 minutes at 160C or until golden brown. Turn the oven down to 100C. While the pastry is still hot, pour the chocolate mix into the ring and bake for a further 22 minutes or until just set.
500g frozen mandarin puree/fresh mandarin juice
200g sorbet syrup
Place all ingredients in a large pan. Mix together well. Bring to the boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Chill. Mix together the mandarin puree/juice with the sorbet syrup.
Churn in an ice cream machine – if you do not have one place in a plastic container in the freezer and stir thoroughly 4 times within the first 30-minute period.
50g dried cranberries
100g glucose syrup
Put just enough water in a pan with the glucose and sugar to make a paste.
Place on the stove and cook until a light caramel is achieved, remove from the stove.
Add the butter and mix thoroughly.
Empty the pan onto greaseproof paper and allow to cool.
Place in a food blender with the cranberries until a fine powder is achieved.
Sieve the mix onto greaseproof paper and place in the oven at 150°c, leave the door open. When the mixture softens to the point it can be rolled, remove from the oven, place a second sheet of greaseproof on the top and roll out as thinly as possible between the two sheets. Cool, break into required size pieces.
To serve – cut tart into equal portions. Serve a wedge of the tart on a plate with a scoop of the sorbet to the side. Garnish with a shard of the tuille. You can place a small piece of tuille under the sorbet to prevent it from sliding around on the plate.
Adam Simmonds’s Festive Pudding
113g mixed peel
113g glace cherries
1 grated rind of orange and lemon
5 large eggs (beaten)
339g chopped almonds
283g soft brown sugar
283g white breadcrumbs
1tsp mixed spice
283g vegetable suet
142ml barley wine
Mix all ingredients, excluding the eggs together and leave for 3 weeks in cool, dry place.
Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
Place the mixture into ¼ pint pudding basins and cook for 2 hours in a steamer or pressure cooker.
On Christmas day re-heat for one hour by steaming or pressure cooker and serve with brandy butter.